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Living on the Margins: An Introduction to Evolvingcertainties.com | Righting America

by Terry Defoe

Pastor Terry Defoe is an emeritus member of the clergy who served congregations in Western Canada from 1982 to 2016, and who ministered to students on the campuses of the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University. He is the author of  Evolving Certainties: Resolving Conflict at the Intersection of Faith and Science, a book which, among other things, chronicles his transition from Young Earth Creationism to evolutionary creation. Evolving Certainties is endorsed by scientists in biology, geology and physics, with a foreword written by Darrel Falk, former president of BioLogos, an organization that has as its goal the facilitating of respectful discussion of science / faith issues. Defoe has been educated at: Simon Fraser University (BA Soc); Lutheran Theological Seminary, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (M.Div.); and, Open Learning University, Burnaby, British Columbia (BA Psyc).

Book Cover for Evolving Certainties: Resolving Conflict at the Intersection of Faith and Science (2018).

In the early years of my ministry, I met regularly with a group of students at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. While I was on campus, I would occasionally drop by the university bookstore. On one of those visits an item on a “New Books” display caught my eye.  It was a book by Stephen Jay Gould titled Wonderful Life. The book was an in-depth discussion of the Burgess Shale, an amazing assemblage of Cambrian fossils from approximately 500 million years ago. This was the first time I had been exposed to a technical treatise on evolutionary theory. The book was technical but eminently readable. 

When I read a book, I generally do two things. I underline, often in more than one color.  And when my reading sparks a thought, I write it in the margin so that I can refer back to it later. Those notes then provide an outline to the development of my thinking over time. My goal for www.evolvingcertainties.com is that it become a sort of clearing house – a one-stop shop if you will, for information on the science / faith debate. Many evangelicals are young earth creationists by default. In other words, that’s what their denomination teaches, that’s what their friends believe, and perhaps their family, and of course their pastor. But they’ve never really checked it out, and they’re not convinced this is something that they wholeheartedly endorse. 

Many evangelicals are satisfied with young earth creationism. Many more, however, are suffering from a serious case of cognitive dissonance, not sure as to what the key issues are and how these issues are dealt with by people of faith who have been able to reconcile their faith with evolutionary science. At this stage, the basic questions asked – and answered – are these:

1 Does science come shrink-wrapped in atheism?

2 Does the theory of evolution leave God out of creation?

3 How can random processes produce complex organisms?

4 Are science and faith irreconcilable?

5 Does the Bible predict scientific discoveries?

6 Does the Book of God’s Word contradict the Book of God’s works?

7 Is a literal interpretation the best way to go?

8 Does evolution corrode a Bible believer’s faith?

9 Is all truth God’s truth?

10 Can a Christian in good conscience adopt evolutionary theory?

11 What will change should I accept evolutionary theory?

These are the kinds of questions evangelicals ask – the kinds of questions I wrote in the margins of books like Wonderful Life. Without accurate answers to questions like these, few people would toss out their old paradigm for a new one. You might want to ask these questions of the creationists you may know. But before you ask them, you might want to lay down a few groundrules, reassuring the other individual that you value your relationship with them and will do your best to maintain it. You might ask how they came to adopt their present views and how strongly the hold them. You might want to hold a seminar in your church or social group – put these questions up on the screen – and invite discussion. If www.evolvingcertainties.com is helpful in this regard, feel free to use it. If you have any comments or questions, let me know.